Journal: Not Feeling Well and Teaching Well

Yesterday I stumbled upon a good way for me to teach a good lesson:

  • plan when I’m feeling great
  • teach when I’m feeling low-energy and kind of sick*

Why?  Because I whole-heartedly followed through with all of my well-laid plans to let the students do things; I simply didn’t have the energy to turn the class into “The Emily Show.”  I think it was up there in the top ten best lessons I’ve taught this semester.

A surprising benefit of having no last-minute subs to call upon!

* I think I’d just eaten something funny the night before.  I had no reason to believe I was contagious and I wasn’t feeling horribe enough to be willing to cancel class.  I try to be responsible about both showing up and not spreading illness!  And just FYI, today I feel great.  🙂

Journal: Semester’s Over!

Last night was my last class of the semester!

I think my favorite moment was when three of my students left arm in arm in arm – an elderly Burmese woman, a young Burmese woman, and a young El Salvadoran woman.  It was evidence of some good ESL classes because the three of them could not communicate without English, and because they probably would not communicate without a nice feeling of community in class.

Next up: exploring grad school options for a Masters of Arts in teaching ESOL… and applying.

Next semester of teaching starts January 19th!  You’ll hear from me between now and then, but not on my regular most-week-days posting schedule.  Happy winter, and happy holidays!

Family Vacation!

Birch Trees Up North by emilyjw on Flickr
Birch Trees Up North by emilyjw on Flickr

I’m departing on vacation with some of my family this evening!

There’s always a lot to do before heading out of town, especially when you know you’ll be coming back to a busy week.  And what’s the point in vacationing if you take your responsibilities with you?

So instead of blogging today’s lesson journal, I’ll be planning, packing, and vacationing!

I jotted down a quick opinion piece that you’ll see Friday, and regular class journal posts should be starting up again by Tuesday.

Hope you have a great few days!

Journal: A Long Day

Class this morning was fine. 12 students. Participation and some laughs, but I wish I’d gotten everyone out of their seat just a little more.

Then I wolfed down lunch and went and volunteered at the hospital. It was busy, and also quite fun.

Then I had to skip dinner to get to a meeting regarding the evening ESL class I’ll being teaching soon. Said meeting was 3 hours long, ending at 9pm a 45 minute drive away from my home.

One highlight of the meeting was that this is a VERY detail-oriented organization. I respect this and I know my students and I will benefit from it. I’ll do my best to meet expectations.

Another highlight was space-sharing. I’ve been accustomed to teaching in classrooms that aren’t anyone’s classrooms in particular. The teachers all shared the space alike. However, in my evening gig I’ll be teaching adults at night in a middle school. I’ll be teaching in Daytime Teacher X’s classroom, and that means I’m a guest.

I don’t mind being a guest in principle. But just one of the many ramifications of being a guest is that if Daytime Teacher X writes an assignment across the entire whiteboard and leaves a note to not erase it, I don’t have a whiteboard that night. I don’t know how likely that is to happen, but the fact that it’s a possibility is kind of disheartening. Or maybe I’m just tired out from a long day.

[insert transition to clever ending paragraph here]

The End

Volunteers and Employees

Other teacher: I love teaching here, but the lack of benefits is really hard.

Me: I’m really new, so I’m still just so happy to earn money to do a job I’d do as a volunteer.

1. I’m really lucky to enjoy my job so much.
2. Many nonprofit jobs have historically been unpaid, and many still work closely with unpaid volunteers. Maybe that shift from volunteer to employee is what’s holding the sector back from competitive compensation packages in the present. Maybe we’re collectively still sort of wondering if we should be paid at all.

Journal: Yesterday’s Bribery and This Weekend’s Planning

Yesterday I didn’t post because a student ended up staying over 45 minutes late chatting about jobs and grammar. It was awesome!

I started yesterday’s class with discussion again, and it was lively and 90% in English (there are a lot of Spanish-speakers, who sometimes prefer to communicate in Spanish). They asked for more conversations, and on the spot I had a plan: conversation starts at 8AM. Conversation ends at 8:30AM. If you want an entire 30 minutes of conversation… you have to come on time.

Given how much they’re into it, I think it’s reasonable to hope that it will be a nice bribe to get there right at 8AM. I realize it could also be taken as saying we’re not really starting till 8:30… but I think it’s a gamble worth taking.

After working with Present Continuous for two full weeks, this coming week we’re going to move to the next unit: exercise/health/wellness with a focus on how and when to use Present Continuous vs. Simple Present.

Can’t wait!

Journal: Ice Breakers Impress

The students were really impressed with my vocabulary review activity this morning and kept telling me how smart I was.  🙂

Students: 8

Countries of Origin: El Salvador, South Korea, Bulgaria, Dominican Republic

What surprised me:

  • The A/C is not only on, but also cooling the building!
  • Introducing the fact that Present Continuous can also be talking about right now did not seem to throw them for a loop.  Phew!

Today’s Objectives:

  1. SWBAT describe what some common home/office gadgets do.
  2. SWBAT ID if a Present Continuous (PrCo) sentence is future or present.
  3. SWBAT hear /th/ and demo /th/ so that other Ss understand it.

What went well:

My magical warm-up activity was to tape a gadget vocab word to all of the students’ backs.  They had to get other students to tell them what their gadget does and use those hints to figure out what was on their backs.  It really made them have to use and understand the language, and I literally backed right out of the room so they could work it out themselves.

PrCo review went smoothly.  I liked my authentic lead-in, “What are you doing after class today?”  I was pleased with the little PowerPoint I made that had one-sentence slides of PrCo mixed in with non-ProCo (they had to determine which ones were PrCo).  We changed the non-PrCo into PrCo.  I kept asking, “Why,” and “How do you know?” … and they kept having to answer me.

The transition from PrCo talking about future into PrCo talking about the present was smooth.  The charades game was fun and really showed me they understood that it meant right now.  Plus one of my students had the verb “flying” and the flapping was funny for all.

Pronunciation was a change from yesterday with students working in pairs, helping each other.  Not The Emily Show!

The listening tied in neatly with the PrCo because the textbook is good that way, and we really stretched it out, locating PrCo sentences in the listening worksheet after the listening activity was over.

What I’d like to improve upon:

Again, my a/v time was longer than I’d anticipated.  This is not hard to prevent, I just didn’t do everything I should have in order to prevent it.

I wish I’d checked for understanding better at the end of pronunciation.  I know they practiced, but except for the little bits I observed while floating, I don’t know how well they did.

Thoughts for Tomorrow:

I really want to tie the vocabulary into the grammar since they’ve seemed oddly separate all week.  I’ll save the second piece of listening for next week.  It’s already Wednesday and we haven’t really done reading.  Pronunciation should continue, especially with small group work.  Maybe we’re ready to succeed at the first exercise the textbook suggests as a lead-in for this unit!

Also, I’d very much like to end the week with a decidedly interactive lesson.

Journal: A Good, Long Day

Quick update on today’s lesson: I decided to go backwards a unit because it just seemed too crazy to go forward.

I’ve decided that one of my weaknesses is teaching vocabulary. I mean, I can do it, but I never really get the intangible sense or the tangible proof that they’ve made vocab progress. Today’s vocab lesson had context, an introduction, and several kinds of practice with the words. It still just didn’t feel like a fantastic piece of the lesson.

After teaching, I began volunteering at a hospital in the ER. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now, and it was really fun and tiring. I’m now officially copping out on the rest of today’s blog journal to plan for tomorrow and go to bed.

Journal: Class Clown

Today one of the older gentlemen in my class stated that he understood that women in America get offended when they’re asked their weight.  He then proceeded to (jokingly) ask the women in the class how much they weighed.  They seemed to get that it was a joke and they laughed, but it’s just not something I’m comfortable having happen.

When I talked to him about it after class he said something to the effect of, “Yes, I know I can’t say it out there to strangers.  But here I like to joke with my friends.”  I’m actually thrilled that the class is that kind of a comfortable environment for him.  I’m just not thrilled with the inappropriate joking.  I think he understood that I think he’s a nice man but that I don’t want to hear this type of joke anymore.  We’ll see how much follow-up it takes!

Students: 7

Countries of Origin: El Salvador, China, South Korea

What surprised me:

  • I forgot to unlock one of the doors to the building when I arrived, and I accidentally defined a word with an extra “not” up on the board.  I guess the mornings are catching up with me!
  • How much they got into our discussions of agreeing and disagreeing.
  • How challenging the vocabulary was to them even after reviewing it in multiple ways.

Today’s Objectives:

  1. SWBAT understand and use yesterday’s vocab through listening and speaking.
  2. SWBAT use Is/are there questions and statements correctly with regards to count and non-count nouns.
  3. SWBAT listen for details.
  4. SWBAT agree or disagree with a food-related statement and give at least one supporting reason.

What went well:

The vocabulary reviews were varied and made them know the word’s definition as well as how it’s used in context, both passively and actively.  We got up and out of our seats a lot, and did both small group and large group work.

I was also pleased with the listening activity (yay book!) and the segue into (dis)agreeing.  Also, I was right that they wouldn’t necessarily know what agree and disagree meant and using the video as context and a simple picture on the board really helped explain it.  Vote With Your Feet really forced them to practice their old vocab as well as what agree and disagree mean.

We had an awkward amount of time left at the end, so I had them do a small quiz on count and non-count to help inform what I need to do to improve upon my grammar point.

What I’d like to improve upon:

I was definitely guilty of a grammatical side-note today.  I know perfectly well you can’t “just mention” something, for example that “How many” is count and “How much” is non-count.  It doesn’t prepare them for when they see it in a formal lesson; it’s just confusing.  I’ve done a good job of limiting this type of aside, and I need to limit it more.

The chain drilling of count and non-count questions and answers first thing this morning was interesting.  They still have a hard time deciding what’s count or not (even when they pulled the noun out of a hat and all the count nouns had “s” at the end), probably because it makes very little logical sense.  They also aren’t making the connection that if I ask “Are there any chickens?” the answer uses are, not is. It was definitely good to get more practice in, but we’re now in a situation where a handful of students get it but a handful doesn’t get it.

Based on their count/non-count quizzes, I think I’ll assign one group of students a more open-ended writing prompt and work more on count/non-count with the couple of students who are still struggling.

Thoughts for Tomorrow:

Start with flyswatter practice on th, ch, sh, and ph.  Repeat today’s count/non-count chain drill.    We’ll use the video interviews to practice listening comprehension and then do some writing practice agreeing and disagreeing (the book’s prompts look good!).  Think of something (maybe more writing) for some students to do while I do some one-to-one count and non-count with others…

And unfortunately, I’m just not having the thinkiest time right now, so I’ll have to finish planning this evening!  Maybe I can plan Thursday’s review session while I’m at!